Seal Rock fire chief says United States wasn’t serious enough about Ebola in the past

Courtesy of Seal Rock Fire District

On Oregon’s Central Coast, residents of Seal Rock and the surrounding areas can feel a little more protected from potential biological outbreaks, knowing that the Seal Rock Fire District has a protocol in place and has upgraded its equipment to protect personnel should they have to respond to an Ebola infection in their area.

While Fire Chief Tracy Shaw is confident in the local capability to respond to and protect against a biological outbreak like Ebola or an attack involving biological agents like anthrax, he is less enthused about the nation’s response.

“I think our entire area and the United States, really, were taking Ebola way too lightly until we started having cases,” Shaw said. “We should have ramped up as soon as the first patient was transported to the U.S.”

The department will follow a strict protocol if they come into contact with a patient who could be infected with Ebola. The protocol includes assessment of a patient’s risk factors and contact with the Lincoln County emergency manager, Shaw said.

There are specific requirements for emergency personnel response. Those include that the patient assessment is to be conducted 10 feet or more from the patient, if completed in person. If a patient is believed to be infected and requires transportation via ambulance, non-patient riders will not be allowed, in order to contain the risk. The protocols were recently handed down by the state’s epidemiologist, Shaw said.

After upgrading the department’s personal protective equipment to include sealable PPE, Tyvek hooded suits and double face protection, Shaw says he believes that the Seal Rock Fire District is better prepared to respond to and protect the community from a potential biological outbreak.